San Francisco

6 Reasons to Drive to Petaluma, California

Just an hour north of San Francisco, this undiscovered small-town wonder has got everything from Hallmark-movie vibes to some of the best food in the country.

Joseph McCarty/Flickr
Joseph McCarty/Flickr
Joseph McCarty/Flickr

Located in Sonoma County in the North Bay region of San Francisco, Petaluma first emerged as fertile farmland along the Petaluma River during California’s Gold Rush, at one point known as “Egg Capital of the World,” and “Chickaluma” for its successful chicken-processing plants. Today, Petaluma uses those eggs in Michelin-starred, farm-to-table meals-but there’s more to Petaluma than its chickens.

The city looks like it could serve as the backdrop of a Hallmark movie, with a plethora of antique stores, apothecaries, rustic wineries, and even a pie shop in the heart of downtown. From California beer history to French-style cheeses and a plethora of outdoor activities, here are six reasons to make Petaluma your next day trip (or rent an Airbnb for a fun weekend getaway).

Stockhome Restaurant Petaluma
Stockhome Restaurant Petaluma
Stockhome Restaurant Petaluma

The farm-to-table scene is out of this world

Petaluma’s agricultural history dates back to the early 1900s, and today, it’s brimming with amazing restaurants-from simple sandwich shops to one-of-a-kind, farm-fresh experiences. You’ll be able to sample artisan cheeses, organically grown heirloom vegetables, all-natural free-range poultry, and obviously, fresh-off-the-farm eggs.

Start at Luma Bar & Eatery, a newly opened restaurant with a plant-based menu focused on ingredients grown in Sonoma Country. It’s located in the former Dempsey’ brewpub location, and it’s the sister establishment to Petaluma’s beloved oyster bar and seafood restaurant, The Shuckery, founded by siblings Jazmine and Aluxa Lalicker.

Make sure Street Social is also on your dining list. With just 300 feet of dining space, this spot makes you feel like you’ve stumbled across a secret culinary hideout. The idea is to highlight seasonal and local fare, with a menu that changes every Tuesday and a wine list that pulls from California producers. There are only six tables in the restaurant, so plan ahead and make a reservation.

Foodies will also love the pastries and quiches that Stephanie Rastetter, owner of Water Street Bistro, begins preparing each morning at 4 am. And no Hallmark town could be complete without its own pie spot-Petaluma Pie Company has sweet and savory pies made with all local and organic ingredients. Grab an Apple Pecan Crumble, or opt for a main-course Chicken or Beef Pot Pie, and enjoy at one of the shaded tables on the patio.

Petaluma’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Stockhome, serves Swedish street food-Shrimp Skagan, wienerschnitzels, and kebabs-using the local, farm-sourced ingredients, and it’s one of the most adorable spots we’ve visited.

Brooks Note Winery
Brooks Note Winery
Brooks Note Winery

Take a swill from the local wine, beer, and spirits scene

You’re in wine country, and Petaluma’s can compete with some of the most renowned wineries in Sonoma County. The grapes grown here have a unique climate of cool wind and rich soil, so plan on trying pinot noir, chardonnay or syrah from a Petaluma Gap winery, available at a number of local wineries, cellars, and tasting rooms.

Brooks Note Winery recently opened a downtown tasting room set in a historic, century-old building. This hidden gem is set along a stretch of Petaluma Boulevard better known for auto body shops than fine wine, and it’s less than a 10 minute walk from downtown. Their wines highlight the surrounding Petaluma Gap AVA and other unknown corners of California wine country.

If you prefer spirits, Barber Lee Spirits is an award-winning distillery known for its Gravenstein Apple Brandy and Absinthe Blanche, as well as traditional favorites like a Single Malt Rye and Heirloom Corn Bourbon. Barber Cellars comes from the same family, with grapes that are dry farmed using non-interventionist winemaking techniques, and a tasting room housed inside the historic Hotel Petaluma downtown.

Don’t worry beer drinkers, we didn’t forget you. Lagunitas’ Petaluma taproom and brewery is another must, where you can try Lagunitas favorites as well as one-off specials, plus a food menu with wings, burgers, tacos, and sweets. They also offer brewery tours and live music.

Marin French Cheese Company
Marin French Cheese Company
Marin French Cheese Company

Grab some artisanal French cheese for a picnic

Sandwiched between Sonoma and Marin counties is Marin French Cheese Co., founded in 1865, it holds the title of oldest cheese company in the country-and still utilizes the same cheesemaking techniques that the owners first championed. Stop in for some small-batch camembert or triple creme brie, then take your selections to one of the on-site picnic tables or bring a blanket and find a peaceful spot along the lake. is built on a foundation of history, time-honored techniques, and a passion for quality. Our story begins in 1865, when a dairy family purchased a 700 acre farm amidst the rolling hills of West Marin County in Northern California. Our classic French-inspired, California-crafted cheeses have been continually made for over 155 years in the same historic creamery that is Marin French Cheese Co. We use only the freshest local milk from Holstein, Jersey, and Guernsey cows to produce cheese in small batches using traditional cultures that coax a distinctly coastal California character and flavor into every wheel.

Sonoma County Regional Parks
Sonoma County Regional Parks
Sonoma County Regional Parks

Explore the great outdoors

There are endless options for outdoor adventures in Petaluma, from kayaking or paddle boarding along the Petaluma River, to biking and hiking along the hillsides. Our favorite is the Petaluma Marsh Kayak Tour with Clavey Paddlesports. It starts on the Petaluma River, and you’ll make your way to the marsh, exploring the narrow sloughs that are accessible only at certain tide levels. In a single or tandem, touring-style kayak (appropriate for beginners), paddle your way through grasses, rushes, and reeds where birdlife and waterfowl are abundant.

You can also rent a paddleboard from Petaluma Stand Up Paddle, take a mini-lesson, and paddle away on the Petaluma River. Their shop is right on the river, so you can launch from there. They also offer guided tours on paddle boards or kayaks, including a six-mile, two-and-a-half hour march exploration.

If you prefer to take in the outdoors on foot, head to Helen Putnam Park, where you can traverse six miles of grassy hillsides and oak-filled woodlands, unpack a picnic, or cast out a line into the fishing pond. There’s also 165 acres of wetlands to explore at Shollenberger Park, with walking and cycling trails, plus a fishing pier.

Robindira Unsworth
Robindira Unsworth
Robindira Unsworth

Shop for a one-of-a-kind souvenir

Petaluma is home to more antique stores per capita than any other Bay Area city and visitors can pop into stores housed in architectural gems from the 1800s. Robindira Unsworth’s namesake studio features her sustainable jewelry designs made from natural stones and metals. Alongside her handiwork, find a well-curated collection of home decor, fine art, and apparel.

If you’re looking for a Schitt’s Creek-inspired spot, Soup Cauldron features Three Sisters Apothecary’s all-natural, sustainably-packaged soaps, shampoos, and body bars that not only smell incredible with scents like mission fig and honey, but also feel luxurious. In the Making is a hidden gem found in American Alley, with heritage leather bags and heirloom jewelry that are handcrafted onsite by owners Jenn Conner and Siri Hansdotter.

The Phoenix Theater
The Phoenix Theater
The Phoenix Theater

Hit the town after dark for a memorable show

From concerts to theater, there are plenty of entertainment options in Petaluma. Enjoy an outdoor concert in the Theatre District, or take in popular seasonal events like the Lighted Boat Parade that chugs down Petaluma River each December (look out for Santa, who makes his annual appearance by boat, too).

Cinnabar Theater presents an eclectic mix of live performances, including musicals, comedies, dramas and operas. Or, try the Petaluma Shakespeare Company, which is Sonoma County’s only free Shakespeare performance group, working in collaboration with the Phoenix Theater and Green Music Center.

If you are looking for live music, head to The Phoenix Theater, which opened as an opera house in 1904. Today, the live music venue hosts renowned musicians and local community performances. The Mystic Theater, once a Vaudeville entertainment venue, is a premier Bay Area music venue that hosts musicians from around the world.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Danielle Braff is a Chicago-based freelancer with stories published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two cats and a dog.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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